Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, along with other Silicon Valley leaders, has launched a new initiative called FWD.us aimed at reforming the United States’ outmoded immigration laws.
Skills are central to the Silicon Valley success story and allowing gifted and skilled overseas workers to live and work in the US is critical to the multi-billion-dollar industry.
In this respect, Ireland can claim to be ahead of the US. This week, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton unveiled a series of reforms that will field 2,000 extra ICT graduates this year, make ICT graduates the largest proportion of graduates to come from third level, as well as increasing the number of ICT work permits and reducing permit processing times by 33pc.
Zuckerberg’s new group FWD.us is backed by Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.
In an editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post, Zuckerberg pointed out that the US is a nation of emigrants and his own family came in through Ellis Island and after a few generations joined the American professional classes.
He said he was saddened by an experience when he was lecturing middle-school students in his community on entrepreneurship and came across a gifted young boy who said he wasn’t sure he could go to college because his family are undocumented.
“My great-grandparents came through Ellis Island. My grandfathers were a mailman and a police officer. My parents are doctors. I started a company. None of this could have happened without a welcoming immigration policy, a great education system and the world’s leading scientific community that created the internet,” Zuckerberg said.
“Today’s students should have the same opportunities – but our current system blocks them.
“We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants. And it’s a policy unfit for today’s world.”
Zuckerberg urged politicians to understand that while the economy of the last century was primarily based on the fruits of natural resources, today’s economy is vastly different, relying on knowledge and renewable resources.
“Unlike oil fields, someone else knowing something doesn’t prevent you from knowing it, too. In fact, the more people who know something, the better educated and trained we all are, the more productive we become, and the better off everyone in our nation can be,” Zuckerberg said.